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Showing posts from January, 2016

Disney Sundays: Cinderella (1950)

You know the palace in the Disney logo that stands as a symbol of magic and dreams –it comes from this movie and there’s a reason for that. Cinderella is the quintessential fairy tale. It’s the one we think of most when we hear that term. It’s a good story with a valuable moral and despite its simplicity, is an icon. Though it was very famous before this adaptation in 1950, most of us have Disney to thank for introducing us to the story. Cinderella was another of the few Disney movies my family had on video when I was a kid and there’s so much I remember about it. Which does kind of go without saying, this is where a lot of fairy tale stock characters, and clichés originate: the love at first sight, the evil stepmother, the gushy dance, the wedding, and happily ever after –a phrase which also instinctively brings back memories of this film’s ending. But is there more to this movie apart from a construction that’s memorable just because it’s so basic? To refresh your memories, the story …

Back to the Feature: How the West Was Won (1962)

When I see a movie like How the West Was Won, a part of me laments that they don’t make movies like this anymore. But they can and they should. This is actually one of those films I’d love to see a remake of because as great as the original is, I think it could be done even better today. The story of four generations of a family settling in the American west over a period of half a century is a really interesting one, and with the resources in visual effects, cinematography, and writing we have today, I’d love to see a new collection of filmmakers and actors take it on. How the West Was Won has one of the best ensembles in film history. Where else will you see Gregory Peck, James Stewart, Henry Fonda, and Debbie Reynolds in one film? Not to mention Karl Malden, Eli Wallach, George Peppard, Caroll Baker, Lee J. Cobb, Richard Widmark, Robert Preston, Carolyn Jones, Harry Morgan, Thelma Ritter, Agnes Moorehead, Walter Brennan, Raymond Massey, and a cameo by John Wayne. Oh yeah, and it’s n…

Disney Sundays: The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)

There’s enough substance to both stories in The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad to make for a great double feature. They’re both amazing stories with interesting characters and environments for the shorts adapted from them to actually be expanded on. But at the same time, at roughly a half hour each, they seem perfectly paced and when contrasted against each other back to back, make for a fantastic film. This film takes the basic idea of Fun and Fancy Free: creating a feature out of two shorts, but omits the biggest thing which held that film back, the awkward live-action transitions. Thus the film feels more whole without the need for a framing device apart from introductions by narrators Basil Rathbone and Bing Crosby. The two shorts are adaptations of classic works of literature. The first is Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows which is set in a pastoral English countryside filled with anthropomorphic animal characters during the Edwardian era. The eccentric and thrill-seek…

Doctor Who by Steven Moffat (2010-2017)

Steven Moffat’s tenure as Doctor Who showrunner is coming to an end. And that’s not a threat or moan about how awful he is or anything. It’s actually been announced that the next series of Doctor Who is going to be his last. But determined to go out with a bang like Russell T. Davies, the next series has been pushed to 2017. We have a Christmas special to look forward to in eleven months, but a new series won’t air until over a year from now. That sucks! Since Moffat took over, the regularity of the Doctor Who series’ and specials have fluctuated and I just wish they’d pick a time and stick with it. During Davies’ era, every series began around March/April. But maybe they just pushed it back so that Moffat could end his run having been showrunner for five series spread over eight years. But yeah, Moffat’s stepping down at long last. I’ve never been an extreme Moffat hater or thought he’s grown incapable of writing Doctor Who well. Hell, “Heaven Sent” this past series was written by hi…

Narnia Back on the Big Screen?

. So it was announced last week, The Chronicles of Narnia may be back on film! Isn’t that great? According to his twitter, David Magee the screenwriter of Finding Neverland and Life of Pi has completed a screenplay of The Silver Chair, the fourth published (but sixth chronological) instalment in C.S. Lewis’ series. Which is great! But as to the previous Narnia film franchise, it’s been six years since Voyage of the Dawn Treader disappointed at the box office enough to kill the series. This new film is then going to be a reboot, relaunching Narnia as a film series. And I have to ask the question, why?
The last two Narnia films did not do well at the box office so the demand for this is a little in question. But then again, The Chronicles of Narnia are a rich series of books with lots of good material. Having read all the books as a kid I’d love to see them adapted. As would many. But of course this is very much the Spider-Man situation, in that it’s a reboot less than a decade after the…

Disney Sundays: Melody Time (1948)

Make no mistake, Melody Time is pretty much just a sequel to Make Mine Music. It also consists of a bunch of popular singers contributing songs to animated shorts. That being said Melody Time is what Make Mine Music should have been. It seems to focus more on telling stories through the music and the amount of shorts that do work make it more of a film worth seeing whole. It still has a couple that are just as bad as the worst of the previous film and that keeps it from being great, but as is, it’s a definite improvement. Melody Time is much less crowded than Make Mine Music, with only seven segments to it. This allows for three of them to be longer more developed stories. And these stories are told as stories split with musical numbers. Indeed there’s a range of song, poetry, and prose storytelling at work in this film across many of the segments. Buddy Clark is the host and transitional narrator, Francis Langford, Dennis Day, and Roy Rogers narrate these stories while…

Shining a Spotlight

In 2001, the Boston Globe’s “Spotlight” team of investigative journalists uncovered a plethora of cases of child sexual abuse within Boston Catholic churches. They won a Pulitzer in 2003 and their findings led to thousands of victims coming forward and a worldwide scandal for the Catholic Church. The movie Spotlight tells their story and it’s discomforting in the best way. The film is told with a seriousness that almost feels like a documentary, the performances are very straightforward -never too passionate, and the tone is incredibly grim. But this is a story that really warrants that kind of presentation. The Spotlight team of the Boston Globe are investigative journalists whose stories are deeply researched and can take almost a year to publish. When the paper’s new editor (Liev Schreiber) takes over he encourages the team to follow a small story about a paedophile priest. The team played by Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery, and Brian d’Arcy James, event…

The Hateful Eight: Is it Pretty Great?

Forgive that title. If you ever see an interview with Quentin Tarantino you’d see that he’s one of the most egotistical people in Hollywood. It just seems unfair that he’s happened to earn that ego through his brilliance as a screenwriter and to a lesser extent, director. He’s only made eight films and his eighth is appropriately called The Hateful Eight, a western-mystery that’s full of excellent plotting, suspense and characters. In Wyoming, a bounty hunter John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell wearing his mustache from Tombstone) is transporting a fugitive Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to the town of Red Rock ahead of a blizzard. He always brings his bounties in alive to watch them hang, thus earning his nickname. Along the way their coach picks up another bounty hunter Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and new Red Rock sheriff Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins). Eventually they’re forced to stop at Minnie’s Haberdashery a lodge some miles from Red Rock where they take up f…

To Brooklyn and Back

  Brooklyn is an Irish, a British, and a Canadian production, which I think is an appropriate parallel to the multiple cultural identities portrayed and at odds in this film. In some ways Brooklyn is a paint-by-numbers romance just with an immigrant angle, but in other ways it’s surprisingly engaging and immersive. The story is set in 1952 when Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan) who’s spent her whole life in Enniscorthy, a town in southern Ireland, emigrates for a better life in New York. She arrives and settles in Brooklyn where she takes up in an Irish boarding house and works at a department store. She spends a while being homesick, but it alleviates when she meets an Italian blue-collar guy Tony Fiorello (Emory Cohen). Their romance blooms, but there are soon problems when something happens back home and Eilis is torn between two worlds. This film reminds me a lot of last year’s The Immigrant, a slightly underrated movie starring Marion Cotillard. And even though this film is tonally diff…

Disney Sundays: Fun and Fancy Free (1947)

If a series of musical segments didn’t work for Disney, how about just a pair of straight up stories? That may have been the thinking behind Fun and Fancy Free which is composed of two shorts and some very strange interludes. But does this work and make it better than Make Mine Music? Well, yes and no… Fun and Fancy Free really feels like a package film, in that it’s clearly thrown together somewhat haphazardly on a budget. It’s short at just over an hour, basic, and incorporates more live-action than you’d expect in a Disney feature. And partly because of this, the film’s not very memorable, and while there are definitely good things about it, it’s very clear why.                 Introduced by Jiminy Cricket in an unspecified house (though Cleo from Pinocchio is there), we get first a story told (and sung) by Dinah Shore on a record, to make a doll and a teddy bear happy. It’s called “Bongo” and follows a bear who does unicycle tricks in a circus. But he escapes one ni…

The Revenant: Man vs. the Unforgiving Frontier

The Revenant is directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu and though you don’t remember his name, you might remember his movie Birdman which swept the Oscars last year. His next film based on the novel by Michael Punke but more specifically the real experience of fur trapper Hugh Glass, isn’t as good but certainly has some remarkable qualities.
                The true story is about Glass played by Leonardo DiCaprio who is hunting with a party in 1823 in the uncompromising unsettled wilderness of Louisiana. He gets separated after they’re attacked by the Arikara, is mauled by a grizzly bear, found by his party but left to die by one of them. So he attempts to survive in the barren wild injured and without resources.                 If I had a nickel for every survival movie I’ve seen, I might have a dollar –a nickel’s not worth much. And while this film does play out a number beats we’ve seen in Castaway and The Edge, it does feel a lot more bitter and raw. This film is based on a true s…

The Top Ten Most Enjoyably Hateable Villains

Isn’t it fun to hate a character? Generally we seem to prefer likable heroes, whether they be triumphant larger-than-life pillars of good morals and virtue, or more flawed down-to-earth good intentioned people upon whom we can project ourselves. But there’s that saying that a hero is only as good as their villain. And there have been plenty of great villains in the history of fiction! Actors always talk about how playing a villain is more fun because generally it’s a greater departure and challenge from what they’re used to. There are plenty of villains we enjoy, but what about those villains we hate. Some are evil but in a way that we root for them, their power and gravitas overcoming the fact that they have bad intentions. These are characters like Darth Vader, the Joker, Magneto, Maleficent (before she was Angelina Jolie), and even Loki! But what about those villains who are just so despicable that they’re so much fun to follow! The ones who for instance don’t deserve their power, …